Some Superfoods May Not Be So ‘Super’
There is so much buzz in the air about how to get healthy. Most of this is great, and important to do for our health. But, we have probably all succumbed to a few fads, diets, and questionable theories as well. The truth is that despite all our efforts, as a whole, we are still headed to a direction of bad health. This has given us shorter lifespan statistics for the first time in decades. The standard American diet, full of too much fatty meat, refined foods, and sugars, simply does not give the average person glowing health reviews.
Even this statement on the state of American health is beginning to feel a little like a cliché. You might even be rolling your eyes, and thinking at this point that of course you know that you need to eat better. So, why read on? Well, you have great healthy intentions, but you may have been led astray.
Is it a Bird, is it a Plane? Nope, It’s a Super Food
Because even those not particularly concerned with eating healthy are learning about new kinds of foods that practically wear capes. They’re called super foods. If you didn’t know, these are foods that are so packed with nutrients they practically fly. Not to mention the health benefits that can range from improving your chance of fighting off cancer to warding off depression.
Don’t tell me you wouldn’t like to get rid of the blues if they come around.
Yes, super foods are great. But, like anything that gets loved, too much of a good thing can be bad. Running with ‘the idea of super foods’ people have started buying up anything and everything with certain names mentioned everywhere from health food sites to blogs to the Today Show.
This is good right?
Well, some of these ‘healthy’ super foods, which seem to be snatched up and used without a thought, aren’t getting the second glance and the careful consideration they need.
Take a Closer Look at Your Superfood Friends
By knowing the benefits of super foods, and their limitations, everyone can lead a happier life away and gain a better understanding of nutrition along the way.Trying to dispel myths, we’ve taken a look at three of the worst offenders that seem to be consumed without thought and without enough thorough inspection.
Forgetting the obvious dangers of fried chicken and grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, we will take a peek at three darlings of the super food stage: kale, olive oil, and dark chocolate. It might surprise you to learn these are not the straight forward super food super heroes you might have thought they were.
1. Kale – The Not So Simple Green
The new favorite kid in the veggie class, kale is cropping up everywhere: at your gym in workout smoothies, the fancy restaurant salad, and maybe even in your moms next stir-fry at dinner. On the ratings chart for health benefit, it tops out: high in fiber, iron, calcium, antioxidants, is anti-inflammatory, low fat, low calorie, and has vitamin K, A, and C.
So what isn’t to love about all that?
Well, all that is good stuff. But, before you start gnawing on kale all day long, there are things to consider about this golden vegetable that can show too much of a good thing applies to everything we put in our bodies.
What’s the problem with Kale?
Some evidence shows that an overabundance of kale in the diet actually could promote blood clotting – not a good thing. People prone to clotting, blood disorders, or on blood thinning medication definitely need to watch their Kale intake. It isn’t that eating a lot of kale will cause problems, but too much could and has for some people. Also, I hate to say that lots of kale can do more than this.
Not just trying to scare you, but this could be important. Sorry to burst your kale bubble.
Hyperthyroidism. Sad but true, kale in abundant amounts could cause the thyroid to kick into overdrive leading to all sorts of nasty things from a lack of libido and depression to constipation and balding. Healthy trend followers, when pairing kale with a lot of other cruciferous vegetables, this is where these things could really get you into trouble. And often, the one who adores the kale will also be dabbling in its other super food friends.
But wait, there is more!
Eating large amounts of kale can also cause gas, bloating, and other less than savory things that may require a bathroom. Life is often not easy with too much kale. Simply consider how hard it can be to chew, ok, you get the picture. Of course this isn’t exactly a reason to run off to the doctor, but walking around feeling like an overstuffed turkey isn’t really a pleasant sensation.
So unless being a clotted, depressed bloating person who is “healthy” is your goal, here are a few fixes and healthy ways to include kale in your life.
How do I do kale the right way?
Moderation is key with kale and with all its benefits, it would be a waste to just toss it out of your diet and life. People eating this stuff daily in every juice, salad, and side are not going to keep up the great feelings for long. Take it slow and pay attention to the following tips and kale will treat you right.
- One way to help kale be more easily digestible is removing the tough stems. Slice kale down the center, keep the sides of the leaf, and your done – very simple fix to avoid bloating and a sore jaw.
- Get your fingers ready. When making kale in one of those super salads, massage it. This will break down tough fibers, and give you an easier fix to any tough parts and make for a tender leaf. It isn’t weird or elitist, what it does is let your dressing soak into the leaves and not leave a puddle at the bottom of your bowl. I’d also try this if you are tossing kale into the saute pan to soak up any spices or sauces it gets tossed around with.
- And don’t you want that kale to get extra tender yummy? Well, to cook, or not to cook that is the question of many a health enthusiast. The answer is yes and no, hence the confusion. Cooking kale is said to lessen the benefits it has fighting cancer, but aids better in lowering cholesterol levels. The flip side is true of raw, as it fights cancer better but not so much with cholesterol. The answer is simple. Do both. Eat it sauteed or raw, after that tender massage of course. What not to do is boil and steam it into a sad, dull puddle of flat green muck. The way to go is that it can be tender, but still should have a curl to it when lightly cooked. And when raw, all there is to do is make sure you are ready for some thorough chewing. Overcooking will make it lose those great nutrients that are inside the kale. And that would be a shame.
2. Olive Oil – The Ancient Oil
Dabbed onto your whole wheat bread, mixed into your quinoa, and sauteing your veggies is the staple in the healthy kitchen: olive oil. If you haven’t seen how popular olive oil has become, than you might not have stepped outside recently.
But you hopefully have, unless your in a bunker growing kale. If you haven’t, here is what is going on.
There are entire stores, oil bars, dedicated to the delicatessen art of what to do with olive oil. With its subtle flavors, numerous studies, and health benefits of omego-3 fatty acids and vitamin E, it isn’t shocking that the world is lapping it up. Before you keep more stocked in the kitchen, or think of frying up your salmon, consider that olive oil might not be such a good companion at all.
What’s the problem?
Olive oil first came to popularity after the famed Mediterranean Diet study. After finding out about the statistics from this, olive oil started becoming a common staple in homes during the 1990′s. As one of the most popular aspects of of the diet, olive oil shouldn’t seem like a problem. But if we take a closer look at this tasty oil, things start to get slippery.
Did you catch that pun?
First, the Mediterranean Diet came out in the 1940′s, and later gained popularity. That isn’t a bad thing, except maybe the distance forgot to show what the diet has been compared against more recently, which is the standard American diet. For anyone not familiar with our vegetable deprived, high fat, sugar laden American diet be warned that it is not a difficult thing to try and outdo.
You want to try right?
It isn’t hard, but there are catches. Not knowing this, many people attribute olive oil as a key that doesn’t take in the overall better health of the people studied on Crete who also consume more grains, fruits, vegetables, but are a much more active culture.
When looked at during studies that involve olive oil on its own, its impact on the body isn’t ideal. As a fat, those thinking the consumption of oil is a good thing when trying to lose weight will not see great results. It is, even if it has a few positives, a fat after all.
You probably don’t want more of it on you, I’m guessing.
Once consumed, the restriction of the blood vessels after a meal is also bad news for those working on circulation or heart strength. That doesn’t seem apparent at first considering the studies, until you see what the studies are comparing it to.
The other way olive oil causes havoc to the body is by having it used in all the wrong ways. The worst way is heating up olive oil. As an oil with a low heating temperature, it becomes unstable when heated up. Even though it is used often in this way, from crisping salmon to making hash browns, free radicals are release. These not only cause aging, but promotes the growth of cancer by releasing the unhealthy oil into the bloodstream. That is why knowing how to work with olive oil in a safe way matters most.
How do I do olive oil the right way?
- First off, do not heat it up! If you are going to be coating something, opt for an oil that has a high heating temperature. Oils like canola oil and coconut oil are popular due to their subtle flavors. Should you adore the taste of olive oil, just heat it over a longer period of time in the oven on a lower temperature. That means no smoke. Never, for the sake of your health, use it to flash cook anything that ends up crispy. It might taste yummy, but oh the damage it can ensure.
- One way to avoid those negative points of heating olive oil is by simply using it in things that are cold. Using it on bread or in cold salads can be ok. Remember though, even if used correctly, there is the point of how much exactly you are using. Olive oil is still a fat, even if it is a more healthy one. Dumping a lot on your salad pretty much ruined any benefits you gained from those low calorie, nutrient packed veggies.
- Don’t depend on olive oil as a dressing, try out other options and limit the amount you use. If you research ‘oil free dressings’, you will come up with a list that is extensive in low to no oils in them. You might end up stocking things like tahini, apple cider vinegar, and fresh herbs to balance out the flavors you had from your old dressings.
- Consider a few nutritional olive oil alternatives. Those seeking out those great benefits like omego-3′s aren’t at a loss. Flax seed is packed with omego-3 fatty acids, but gives other benefits like fiber and heart health that olive oil can’t claim. You might even check into using flax seed oil itself instead of olive oil should you want to keep your fat intake down.
And you want to do that right?
Of course, lessening your olive oil intake doesn’t mean ditching it. That same mindfulness people talk about with butter can be applied. Yes, you can still dip your bread in it, roast your vegetables, and even eat it in your salad dressing. Just try for once a week instead of every day, and you don’t have to worry again about the woes of olive oil.
3. Dark Chocolate – A Sweet Treat
When first opting for a healthier eating lifestyle, the idea of giving up those naughty sweets can wilt the heart a bit. That is, until, you learn about dark chocolate. Whether drizzled onto your fruit or eaten straight off the bar, dark chocolate has become one of the sweet treats that is allowed into the healthy person’s diet, even encouraged.
Did you think you would have to go without the taste of sweet sweet chocolate forever?
Well, dark chocolate is your loophole, sort of. There are several beneficial antioxidants in dark chocolate, sometimes more than those pricey pints of blueberries at the store. Endless in variety, from the sea salt sprinkled to those fused with raspberries, how you eat dark chocolate has a limitless imagination. However, all those endless choices, are why things aren’t always so sweet when it comes to eating dark chocolate.
What’s the problem with dark chocolate?
Dark chocolate is created from cocoa, and is often mixed with very little milk or none at all. This is what primarily makes dark chocolate different than milk chocolate and white chocolate. However, there isn’t any exact regulation on what can and can’t be labeled dark chocolate, and that is where some of the problems can arise and health gains wane. The amount of cocoa in dark chocolate and types and amounts of all the other ingredients can vary so much that ‘dark chocolate’ can mean all sorts of things.
One of the biggest issues is the sugar content. Chocolate is normally thought of as sweet, but as a natural substance cacao or cocoa is anything but. What gives it the sweetness is sugar, and if you didn’t know sugar in excess isn’t so great.
Sugar, in all of its forms is an energy source, but the simple sugars used to sweeten chocolate and most other sweets bring with them a tendency to convert to fat, to cause tooth decay, and to throw off your natural digestive processes.
Too much sugar promotes blood sugar spikes, which is one of the factors that can creat issues with conditions like diabetes. Diabetes causes a myriad of terrible health conditions, from poor eyesight to, poor circulation, heart illness, and an overall reduced life span.
So you can’t just eat it all day huh?
Nope. And defining what exactly dark chocolate is can be problematic. The idea of eating a healthy dark chocolate means that you have to carefully consider the ratio of milk, sugar, and actual chocolate. If you are eating an unlabeled dark chocolate and skip out on looking at the nutrition, be warned: things like saturated fat, which go against heart health, can be just as high as any other chocolate. Just because there are things to be cautious of, however, doesn’t mean that you have to leave your fond memories of savoring delicious chocolate behind.
How do I do dark chocolate the right way?
- For the dark chocolate lover, one of the easiest ways to see what is in your tasty treat is simply reading the label. Looking at the ingredients listed, you will know if your bar contains dairy or other things, like oils or other additives, that make your chocolate a less healthy choice. For vegans or those that are lactose intolerant, this is especially important to check before buying. Many creators of dark chocolate not only opt to remove dairy, but have other distinguishing points to make buying dark chocolate that is tasty and nutritious easier.
- The chocolate companies to look for choose to list ingredients and the cocoa percentage. A dark chocolate above 70% is a more healthy dark chocolate. The other thirty percent of ingredients can vary, so even if the chocolate percentage is labeled, always make sure to check the other ingredients. Nuts and fruits can be tasty additions that sweeten and add flavor in a better way than ample amounts of sugar.
- Another idea is to opt out of strictly dark chocolate and check out the new favorite, cacao. The actual plant that produces cocoa, cacao can be bought as a powder or in the form of bars. Purer cacao offers superior nutrition over many dark chocolates containing hidden ingredients.When sweetened without cane sugar, with agave, stevia, dates, or other natural sources, you can still enjoy the flavors of chocolate. Next time you see dark chocolate, check out fair trade brands, nutrition, cocoa percentages, and of course do the one thing you must do when eating chocolate: enjoy eating it.
Moving Ahead on Your Super Food Journey
These are just three super foods that are potentially not as super as popular opinion says they are. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t many more as well as many that are super. When you go online and see recipes from even the most healthy people, keep in mind: they don’t know everything. It takes a lot of sources and digging, and even multiple trained sources, to know how to use all of the super foods.
Don’t be discouraged just because learning about foods takes extra work. When you put the time in to learn more about food, you learn nutrition. Your body is, after all, a machine that needs fuel. Learning about this fuel, even if you have a few missteps along the way, means that you are taking the right steps. Learn from others with what foods get the most notice, and then see all the different ideas from not just other health foodies, but scientist and doctors. It isn’t about going back or forward when it comes to our health, but balancing the best of both.
And that isn’t too bad when you see the silver lining.
By combining our most basic needs in nutrition with the understandings of what science tells us, we gain a better understanding of how to optimize the body. It is in the knowing where we can find new ways out of our cultural health predicament. It can’t be impossible with where we are. When you are at the point of eating deep fried cheese on sticks, the only place can really be up. And kale, olive oil, and dark chocolate, when done just right aren’t a shabby way to begin.